Republic Kolache’s rapid growth from pop-up wunderkind to coffee shop wholesaler has ironically played a leading role in its demise. Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the D.C. company that hawks Czech-style pastries found all over Texas has seen an 80 percent decline in ordering from a client base mostly made up of struggling cafes, co-founder Chris Svetlik says. Seeing the writing on the wall, the company shared to its email list last week that it will sell its last orders from offshoot Republic Cantina on November 8.
Svetlik says Republic Kolache could “technically” reactivate in the future, but “this is very likely the end of the road.”
Back in 2015, Republic Kolache started with a bang. A pop-up from Svetlik and co-founder Brian Stanford was a hit. A line forming down the block from the American Ice Co. bar in Shaw bought out a run of 700 kolaches, and Svetlik told Eater at the time that another 100 or so customers had to go home empty-handed.
Ranging from sweet (cream cheese and pecan) to savory (half-smoke, chipotle-spiced saag paneer), Republic’s kolaches eventually got their own stall at the Union Market food hall. The brand established lasting relationships with American Ice Co., which is now set to close indefinitely at the end of October, and Reliable Tavern in Petworth. Local coffee stalwarts Peregrine, Compass Coffee, and Zeke’s Coffee all became clients, along with a Whole Foods in Arlington.
After years spent building a network of nostalgic, displaced Texans and other fans, Svetlik parlayed the kolache company’s success into a new project, a cantina that opened in September 2019 with modern Tex-Mex mash-ups like Czech sausage fajitas and arguably the city’s best breakfast tacos.
“The positive spin on all of this is I think a major kind of understanding of the role [Republic] Kolache played with building this very loyal Texan customer base, which allowed us to open [Republic] Cantina, which has proven to be a more resilient business in the pandemic,” Svetlik says.
Until Saturday, November 8, customers can place pickup orders of kolaches by the dozen ($30 to $40) or half-dozen ($16 to $22) from the online store for Republic Cantina (43 N Street NW). There are also Republic Kolache shirts, mugs, and kitchen towels for sale.
Svetlik confirms that the kolaches won’t be available anywhere, including Republic Cantina, after November 8. That also includes a cinnamon roll made out of kolache dough.